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2020 – A Twofold Watershed Year for Rare Earths?

Against the backdrop of the recently-signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) for critical materials between the U.S. and Canada to reduce U.S. reliance on Chinese Rare Earths supplies, and the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which  “has expanded its recognition of the critical importance of the rare earths” … “2020 looks to be a pivotal year for rare earths,”says Investor Intel’s Jack Lifton.

According to Lifton, the fact that the NDAA has furthered the FY 2019 mandate from requiring that the U.S. military only buy non-Chinese REE permanent magnets to now requiring that DOD develop and implement a strategy “to discover or develop and integrate each of the necessary industrial components into a total domestic American rare earth supply chain for any and all rare earth enabled products utilized by the U.S. [Department] of Defense” represents the “greatest opportunity to revive a non-Chinese rare earth industry, since the movement to China of that industry in the last years of the twentieth century.”

The opportunity is twofold. 

A push to diversify the U.S. rare earths supply chain also provides a chance to address one of its inherent ironies —the fact that “the materials needed for green energy, such as in wind turbines, are currently being acquired by destroying the Chinese countryside.”

We all know the green revolution is coming.  In the words of J.A. Green & Company president and ARPN expert panel member Jeff Green, going green “will force us to address the externalities of foreign extractive industries in order to build an economy that sustains opportunity for life and growth for the maximum number of people.

With that in mind, in 2020, the U.S. government “should show leadership and make a deliberate choice to encourage more responsible rare earth sourcing,” says Green.

As we have previously pointed out, industries are responding, harnessing advances in technology which make it possible increasingly to restore a balance between mining and environmental protection. 

In 2020 we may in fact see the “culmination of nearly 10 years of effort to move the U.S. government from endless studies and research projects to actually investing in the production of rare earth materials needed to support the Department of Defense,” as Green has phrased it.   In this context, the U.S. Government can tap into “technologies and mine sites in the United States and other environmentally responsible countries that are worth investigating and developing if they will reduce the damage associated with current methods of rare earth production.” 

Doing so, says Green, could “not only reduce environmental damage but also reduce Chinese leverage on U.S. national security.”